Vietnam has followed China in employing the use of forced televised confessions to cow human rights defenders and other dissidents.
The Spain-based rights group Safeguard Defenders released a report, “Coerced on Camera: Televised Confessions in Vietnam,” detailing how 21 individuals had been forced to confess on film since 2007.
The group estimated the actual number was likely higher, adding “Vietnam’s poor human rights record makes it more than likely that many of these victims are also routinely exposed to arbitrary detention, mental and physical torture and threats.”
Those forced to give online confessions included human rights lawyers, citizen journalists, activists, and villagers protesting against land grabs.
The group found the victims had been deceived into appearing on camera, “coerced to lie” about their activities, provided confessions that were “manipulated or scripted by the police,” and compelled to plead for mercy or otherwise warn others against repeating their “mistakes.”
“Like China, some of Vietnam’s victims are made to frame their crimes as being anti-state or anti-party, a reflection of how authoritarian countries criminalize dissenting or critical voices,” Safeguard Defenders said.
“Later confessions from Vietnam also appear to suggest that maybe Hanoi is learning some of China’s techniques.”
The group noted a similarity between the state-organized 2017 abduction of former-oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh in Germany 2017, who appeared on camera claiming he had returned to Vietnam of his own will, and the 2015 case of Chinese-born Swedish publisher Gui Minhai. Gui was kidnapped from Thailand in 2015, and would likewise appear on state TV claiming he had voluntarily returned to China.
The group noted that Vietnam is a signatory to the International Covenant on Political & Civil Rights and UN Convention Against Torture, which make outlaws the production and broadcast of forced detainee confessions.
Safeguard Defenders also checked the communist country’s own legal codes, criminal procedures, and press laws, discovering that the country’s “own laws prohibit the making and airing of forced confessions.”